Goals from Merry, Flynn and Whitelock earn win over surprise finalists Japan
New Zealand’s women are Hawke’s Bay Cup champions following an exciting 3-2 win over Japan in the final.
Cheered on by a big crowd at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park in Hastings, the home favourites scored three unanswered goals through Olivia Merry, Gemma Flynn and Kayla Whitelock against a strong defensive unit.
Japan's Cherry Blossoms caused a scare with two goals in the final five minutes of the match from Miyuki Nakagawa and Mie Nakashima – who finished as the tournament top scorer with five goals, all from open play – but the Kiwis held firm to seal the result and the title.
The Hawke’s Bay Cup is deserved reward for the in-form Black Sticks who won every game at the tournament, bettering last year’s silver medal finish behind Australia’s Hockeyroos, who defeated China in the 3-4 classification match to finish in third place.
Arguably their most significant result came in their monumental semi-final clash with Oceania rivals Australia, with the Black Sticks fighting back from 2-0 down to take a stunning 3-2 win thanks to strikes from Charlotte Harrison, Olivia Merry and Pippa Hayward.
Black Sticks captain Stacey Michelsen said the Hawke’s Bay Cup triumph was a glimpse at bigger things to come later in the year.
“To come away with a win at the tournament is great. We certainly make it into a lot of semis and finals but it’s been a long time since we’ve gone through to win, so we take a lot of confidence and belief going forward,” she said, before looking ahead to this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. “Things are looking good for us later in the year and we have a very strong group of players vying for those finals spots in Rio.”
Despite the disappointment of losing the final, the competition was a resounding success for Japan, a side that appear to have hit some serious form ahead of their Olympic challenge.
Japan (FIH World Ranking: 10) recorded some superb results in the competition, topping Pool A undefeated ahead of Australia (WR: 3), Korea (WR: 9) and Canada (WR: 19) before beating India (WR: 13) and China (WR: 5) in their respective quarter and semi-final matches. Head Coach Yuki Nagai will hope that his talented team take confidence from their excellent displays at the Hawke’s Bay Cup as they continue along the road to Rio.
A full video replay of the Hawke’s Bay Cup final can be seen by clicking here, with other Video On Demand action from the showpiece event available here.
The Hawke’s Bay Cup – named after the bay on which the city of Hastings is situated – is the focal point of the Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey, an initiative backed by the Hawke’s Bay tourist industry and local businesses that not only aims bring top international teams to the area on an annual basis but also showcase a beautiful part of the country. The festival is very much in line with Big Goal 1 of FIH’s Hockey Revolution strategy, which is to develop innovative and exciting entertainment events as Hockey aims to become a global game that inspires the next generation.
Hawke’s Bay Cup – Final standings
1: New Zealand